The Cavaliers came out of the gates fast against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night much to the chagrin of one Lance Stephenson. The Cavaliers Big Three dominated the game, each at separate times of the game, and each playing a crucial role in the Cavaliers being up 2-0 over the Indiana Pacers.
Someone, please, call the police: Lance Stephenson got mugged Tuesday Night in Cleveland.
To be honest, Stephenson couldn't get out of his own way at times against the Cavaliers. Nicknamed "Born Ready," he was apparently "Born Ready to get balled on" against the Cavaliers, but more on the Pacers' resident broken toy shortly.
The game began with a flurry - the Cavaliers, led by LeBron James and Kevin Love in the first quarter looked much more active on the defensive end of the floor, trapping Paul George to cause him to have to give up the ball to his cohorts. LeBron James provided the early spark, getting teammates involved, running the offense, and riling up the crowd with a ferocious two-handed slam when one Lance Stephenson decided to not pick James up on the switch - his mistakes would come to cost the Pacers dearly.
With their renewed effort on the defensive end of the floor and their lively shooting on offense, the Cavaliers built an early lead going into halftime. Come the third quarter though, this was about to be a game where Love would make his mark felt.
Having been called for two blocking fouls earlier in the game, Love was clearly attempting to get in the way on defense, to make the shots for the Pacers as hard as he could. He was getting in good position, but the refs, for whatever reasons, kept going against Love, incorrectly smacking him with two blocking fouls. In the third quarter, the game had begun to come Kevin Love's way.
Indiana, inexplicably, had Lance Stephenson on Kevin Love. This makes little-to-no sense, but hey, I'm only reporting what happened. Regardless, the leader of the Island of Misfit Toys, Mr. Stephenson, had his hands full of one Kevin Love. Time after time down the floor, the Cavaliers would dump the rock into Love, and due to his size advantage, he would bully Stephenson, who would have no choice but to foul Love. Love would march to the line repeatedly in the third quarter and knock down each and every one of his 12 free throws on the night. In the end, Love scored 27 points on 6-7 (how efficient is that, goodness) from the floor, 12-12 from the charity stripe, and he pulled down 11 boards. Quite a night for Love, one that he definitely needed.
At one point in the third quarter, amidst all of the free throws, Love tapped in a James missed three, sprinted down the floor, and got a charge called on Kevin Seraphin as he barreled into Love. The crowd was going berserk, and Love was definitely feeding off of this energy.
At the end of the quarter, it was Kyrie Irving's turn to dance on Lance Stephenson. Irving mercilessly crossed up the Pacers' swingman with a vicious crossover that sent Stephenson out of the zip code while Irving calmly buried the now wide-open jumper. Irving would, at the end of the quarter, hit a three in the face of Stephenson to put the finishing touches on a horrendous night for him. At one point during the fourth quarter, the cameras picked up a shot of Indiana Coach Nate McMillan was seen telling Stephenson that he needed to calm down, and it was obvious to anyone watching that Stephenson was gurgling with frustration.
The game was not all sunshine and rainbows though. During the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers let an 18 point lead slip down to four points. This sound familiar to you? It should. This has been a recent trend, and as Kevin Nye pointed out, is something that is very on-brand for the 2017 Cavaliers.
Not only was the fourth quarter largely a disaster, but the reason why is a pretty dumb one. I'm not sure what it is about this team, but when they get up big, they stop running set plays, instead it just becomes James and Irving taking turns holding the ball for 18 seconds and being forced into bad look after bad look for eight minutes as the Pacers get great looks at the other end and chip into the lead. This has to stop, they need to keep their foot on the gas, and the Cavaliers need to figure out these fourth quarter issues before they run into a team that they can't beat on pure talent alone.
Having said all that, in NBA history, teams that go up 2-0 win the series 94% of the time.
I'm not saying, I'm just saying. The Pacers need a lot of help other than just going back home, and I don't think the cavalry is coming.
Game 3 is Thursday Night from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.